Encouraged by the return of physical events, events stakeholders in Hong Kong have unleashed ideas to hasten recovery
With travel restrictions finally lifted by the Hong Kong SAR government in January, stakeholders in the business events industry are feeling more certain about the future, and have kickstarted various initiatives to start courting international events again.
According to a spokesperson from AsiaWorld-Expo (AWE), international events heading to Hong Kong in 2023 have the potential to reach pre-pandemic levels.
The spokesperson shared: “Our marketing initiatives never stopped even during Covid. The MICE team continued to engage with organisers, and stayed in close contact with the Hong Kong Tourism Board.
“AWE also leveraged platforms such as the UFI Global Summit to share the latest developments at (the venue), as well as the subsidy scheme introduced by the Hong Kong SAR government.”
As a result, AWE scored the Global Sources’ flagship series of tradeshows, which will take place April 11 to 21, 2023.
RISE, a tech event, will also return to AWE for the next five years, starting from 2024.
Aside from its marketing efforts, AWE has continuously upgraded its hardware. Its HK$600 million (US$76.5 million) venue-wide upgrades include the use of IoT in its operations, and the introduction of 5G and Wi-Fi 6.
The next digitalisation effort will target billboards and branding touchpoints in high-traffic areas, and will be unveiled in phases from now until 2026.
New and upgraded attractions have also been introduced in the past few years. Most notable among the dozens of new developments are M+ and Hong Kong Palace Museum at the West Kowloon Cultural District, the new sixth-generation Peak Tram, Water World Ocean Park, the new night-time show Momentous at Hong Kong Disneyland, and enhanced waterfront promenades offering spectacular new ways to admire Victoria Harbour.
Hotels are not far behind, with many ramping up their operations to prepare for business rebound.
General manager of The Park Lane Hong Kong, A Pullman Hotel, Luc Bollen, told TTGmice: “We recently converted a few floors into executive rooms and an exclusive executive lounge in order to accommodate Chinese conference groups, senior management from China companies, as well as luxury travellers.”
Bollen expects Chinese guests will combine business and leisure when they return to Hong Kong for their first trip in three years.
As for the brand new 1,208-room Regala Skycity Hotel, it has been contacting previous and potential event clients, and has resumed its advertising and promotion campaigns targeting both China and overseas markets.
The property is located a two-minute walk from AWE and 11 Skies – expected to be Hong Kong’s largest hub for retail, dining and entertainment – via an enclosed footbridge.
The hotel’s spokesman said: “International events take about one to two years to plan, so we expect the pace in 2023 to be a bit slower. More events will be held in 2024 and beyond.”
Regala Skycity Hotel’s immediate focus is set on the shorthaul market due to the shorter lead time to organise events. Fam trips for corporate travel agents and planners from shorthaul markets are currently underway to showcase the hotel.
“In the long term, we also plan to target longhaul markets like Europe and the US. Related marketing and promotion strategies will be rolled out in due time,” the spokesperson said.
Yet, there remains a sense of caution among Hong Kong’s battered business events stakeholders.
Gunther Homerlein, owner and general manager of Destination China, pointed out: “Restrictions are not yet fully lifted. We still have a mask mandate, and some of our longhaul clients have said they will not consider Hong Kong until (these obstacles are) gone, so it will be slower coming back. Having said that, we are seeing requests from June onwards and have already confirmed some corporate groups for mid-2023.”
A challenge ahead for Hong Kong, Homerlein added, is the manpower shortage across the tourism ecosystem, as many of workers have left the industry.